Librarianship at Ontario colleges has changed significantly since the pandemic. Eva McDonald explores new challenges facing academic librarians, and how best to meet these challenges.
By Cyndi Smith
The past year has been a very different experience for me and now that it is almost over, I find myself reflecting on it. I met fellow technicians who expressed interest in this role and others who seemed aghast at the idea of serving in this capacity, but for me the opportunity was too good to pass up. So, unsure what to expect, I took on the role of OCULA President; and as the year went on, it happened.
A sheepdog herding thoroughbreds: that is what the last year has felt like to me. As a library technician serving in a position traditionally filled by librarians, I have often felt out of my element, doing things I have never done before. I am a very good library technician, and I feel equal to any task that is within my broad scope of practice: I have worked in many departments at public, academic and special libraries. I have always felt comfortable stepping up to work on projects to organize information, revise policies and procedures, or model good service practices. However, when called to create content, instruct a class, or devise or implement new systems, I tend to drag my feet: I am not educated for or naturally inclined towards this work. Yet OCULA is an association that creates this kind of work, and OCULA Council is usually comprised of excellent, creative librarians. What could a technician bring to this group, and how could I add value to OLA’s Board of Directors?
Looking back, what has been most interesting to me is that library association work is not quite as I had imagined it. I have learned that there are important components to the work where my experience and strengths are helpful or unique. I have discovered that much of the work of a library association involves communication, information sharing, and relationship building. It also requires thoughtful interactions with intersecting associations, institutions, and people, demands genuine care for the connections you make and the things you build, and calls you to thoughtfully represent the people that need it most. Most of all, I have learned that I was not only up to this task; I have an affinity for it.
Melanie Parlette-Stewart, our previous President, spoke to me at the beginning of the year about ‘imposter syndrome’: she wanted me to know that what I was feeling was neither unique nor limited to library technicians. It helped. I would like to believe that I have made meaningful contributions — to OCULA through my work on Council, and to OLA through the Board of Directors — but privately, I am more aware of what I have taken from the experience. I don’t think I will ever think the same way again, or value myself the same.
This has been a good experience for me, and I sincerely wish the best for OCULA Council and the OLA Board of Directors. It almost seems a shame to leave the table now, just as I’m hitting my stride, but other work calls out to me. The new President and Vice-President will soon lead Council, and you will enjoy getting to know them in 2020.
So, having said all this, I want to thank Council as a whole and several people in particular. Melanie Parlette-Stewart, Past President, has been a creative, generous President and a difficult act to follow; and Monique Flaccavento, outgoing Treasurer, helped me understand numbers and processes more clearly, which will make me much more useful in future association work. Thanks also to Rob Makinson, my editor at InsideOCULA, for his support and guidance: it was gladly accepted. My final thanks are for Angela Henshilwood, your incoming President, the most thoughtful person with whom to accomplish anything, and one of the easiest people to work with on any task.
What’s next for OCULA Council? Whatever comes in 2020, it’s going to be good. Watch for it!
Cyndi Smith is a Library Technician at Georgian College and the 2019 OCULA President. You can reach her at cyndi.smith [at] georgiancollege.ca.
Header Image: provided by Cyndi Smith